Venable and Public Justice Center defeat attempt to terminate three-decade long Baltimore City foster care class action

2 min

In a unanimous ruling in the 26-year-old L.J. v. Wilbon case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has rejected an attempt to overturn a federal court ruling that required comprehensive reforms of the Baltimore city foster care system. The defendants, the Maryland Department of Human Resources and the Baltimore City Department of Social Services, had argued that, under a Supreme Court decision issued in 2009, foster children had no rights to enforce federal child welfare laws and that the federal court could not enforce orders it had entered based on earlier decisions. This is the first ruling by any appellate court on the issue.

Venable partner Mitchell Mirviss argued the case on behalf of the foster children. Other Venable attorneys who have worked with him on the appeal include John Cooney, Jamie Dunbar, Stewart Webb, Lewis Taylor and Viktoriya Shpigelman. Connie Capistrant has worked on the case for several years, with the assistance of Susan Danton, and Ruth Lathe previously worked on it as well.

The Baltimore foster care system has had chronic failures documented by numerous reports and studies. As a result of this ruling, the State must comply with 28 separate outcomes for the foster children, which are measured by over 100 performance measures.

Venable has served as lead counsel in the case since 1990. The firm has long supported efforts to reform the foster care system in Maryland, and every year employees from across the firm generously donate to an annual Christmas party for a large group of foster children. This year, staff donated more than $3,000 in cash and gift cards, plus literally a truckload of toys and other gifts, ensuring that each child received a significant Christmas present.